To Eat or To Dine?

Photo credit to an amazing photographer, my brother, David Byars
This past week was spent with my family at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, SC. My family grew up going to the beach most summers at the Isle of Palms, and this is the first time that we've been back there together as adult children with our parents. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement and build up to this family vacation, and it did not disappoint. The June weather was absolutely gorgeous, there was a breeze in the air on the beach and through the three porches on the house where we were staying. We spent most mornings and afternoons on the beach where we set up a canopy and a tent for us to get some relief from the sun and to give the babies a place to cool off and play. The middle of the day was spent napping, reading, watching the World Cup, and rocking babies. After the sun went down and the kids were all sound asleep (most nights by 7:30 from pure exhaustion) the party started, and we all stayed up laughing, singing, eating delicious dinners, watching the stars from the rooftop porch, and listening to stories from my 89 year old grandmother to stories about our 4 1/2 month niece and her adventures so far and everything in between. We made some wonderful memories that will not soon be forgotten.

You know how I love a plan, so I started off our vacation the day before our vacation even began by ordering our groceries online from the Harris Teeter right off of the Isle of Palms Connector. We hit the road on Saturday morning with my brother in tow (he had flown in from Telluride two nights before to help me with the drive...I think part of his motivation was getting some white cheese dip during our traditional visit to Winston-Salem's finest Mexican establishment, La Carretta...we both went to Wake so our memories of eating cheese dip together at La Ca go WAY back.) I spent the first 2.5 hours by myself with the kiddos in the magic mini giving my brother and husband some time to catch up in the other car (they were fraternity brothers at Wake, and it is a rare occasion that they get any time together without our whole crew in tow, so I was happy to oblige...for half of the trip at least ;)).

The trip down was relatively uneventful, and we arrived within an hour of my parents, my grandmother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and my niece. Since I knew we had some time to spare, I headed to Harris Teeter to pick up our "groceries to-go." As expected, we ended up back at the grocery store for SOMETHING every single day we were at the beach, but it was nice to have most of our groceries all packed up and ready to go by the time we arrived for our vacation. This was especially crucial because two major events occurred while we were at the beach: Father's Day and my parents' 41st wedding anniversary...amazing!

Here was our menu for the week:

Saturday night: Moravian Chicken Pies from Salem Kitchen in Winston with a simple salad

Sunday morning: Breakfast for the Dad's including Athens, GA's Last Resort's Cheese Grits (one of my sister's specialties), Oven Broiled Bacon, Scrambled Eggs, and Grands Frozen Biscuits (thanks to my bro for the tip!)

Sunday evening: Beef Tenderloin, Lemony Shrimp Risotto, Caesar Salad, Sister Shubert's Rolls, and ice cream for dessert

Monday evening: Pork Verde Tacos with all the fixin's

Tuesday evening (my parents' anniversary): Roasted Chicken with Lemon & Thyme (why we didn't get my brother to prepare this is still a mystery as he is a master of roasted chicken!), Tomato Pie, Roasted Asparagus, and Salem Kitchen's Chocolate Cake for dessert. (NOTE: the cake may have gotten a little smushed along the way, OR my mom may have peeked in the box and taken a little nibble...I'm sure we will never know the true story...but the cake ended up saying, "Happy Anniv...ry," so we all thought that we were hysterical singing Happy Anniv...ry to you to the tune of Happy Birthday...nerdery at its finest!)

Wednesday evening: Burgers in the oven...yep, we forgot to check the gas tank on the grill, so my BLAW saved the day with his burger making skills and innovative thinking (google may have helped), Oven Roasted Corn (this was also sort of a bust because they gave me corn without the husks on...again, BLAW to the rescue wrapping them in foil and moving forward with the roasting), and a salad with avocado, tomato, etc.

Thursday evening: Grimaldi's Pizza!!!!! You cannot understand my elation when I found out there was a Grimaldi's in Mt. Pleasant. We used to do pizza & a movie night almost every Friday night when we lived in Scottsdale, and I would shlep my kids about 20 minutes to put them in the double stroller, to walk through a huge shopping area, to go inside and maneuver my stroller through all of the tables JUST to get this delicious really is THAT good!!

Friday evening: Boiled Fresh Local Shrimp, Angel Hair Coleslaw, French Fries, and Chocolate Chip Cookies for dessert

Now, if you're thinking, WOW, this sounds like a LOT of effort!, let me assure you that IT WAS! Some of you were probably expecting me to say, NO, it was a piece of should try it yourself! Sorry to disappoint, but I am merely human, and this was a little ambitious :) Trying to time dinner every night when coming off of the beach in the early evening (which we never wanted to cut short because it was our favorite time of the day), bathing 4 kiddos plus ourselves, feeding a newborn, feeding 3 other kids, and getting all of them to bed was truly crazy. Luckily, as I mentioned earlier, most nights the babes were in the bed by 7:30 (except the newborn who truly is the sweetest baby in the entire world who evidently wanted to stay up and party rather than going to bed...who can blame her???), but that still left us with dinner to prepare which had us eating at 9:00 most, this is not a problem in and of itself, but we were all physically exhausted by the end of the day, and making dinner (as much as I truly LOVE it) was just a lot. The upside was that dinner was awesome every single night, and we saved a bunch of moolah by not dining out, AND, I didn't come home feeling like I had gained 15 pounds after vacation despite trying to eat and drink myself through each and everyday like it was my job.

This leads me to ponder the question that my mom asks my dad when they are going out to dinner..."Are we going to dinner to EAT? Or are we going to dinner to DINE?" Now, you may be wondering what in the world I am talking about. Going to dinner to EAT involves simply ordering food, eating, and leaving. Going to dinner to DINE involves ordering pre-dinner drinks, an appetizer, talking for a while before ordering an entree, enjoying a leisurely dinner, and perhaps rocking outside in rocking chairs after dinner for a while. A friend of mine today commented on my meals that I have prepared so far this week and said she just couldn't do it. I explained to her that I wouldn't be able to either if it wasn't honestly therapeutic and one of my great joys in life to prepare dinner for my family. She put it this way, "I cook to eat."

Huh. What a concept. Cooking to eat. WOW! This has my mind racing. What we probably SHOULD have done was to cook to eat at the beach. That's basically what we did for the kids. We made sandwiches or chicken nuggets with fruit salad or simple vegetables every night as a separate meal (you know I don't love this idea because it involves extra effort, but it was the only way to survive this week!). My sister and I both agreed that despite the fact that we LOVE to cook to DINE, it's probably a better idea to cook to EAT while on family vacation and just use the extra time to enjoy each others' company, extra time on the beach, and extra inning of beach baseball, a late afternoon game of tennis, a rock on the porch in the breeze, or perhaps a power nap ;).

Next time, I think that we will still keep some of the meals on the agenda...especially those that we grew up enjoying like boiled shrimp and tacos, but we will probably eat some more casseroles, order food to-go a few more times, and take the pressure off of ourselves just a bit. After all, isn't it better to be a Mary than a Martha? To spend more time with each other catching up on our lives and our plans for the future, to laugh hard and often, to take in the beauty of God's creation in the ocean, the stars, the sunsets, the sky, the breeze, to embrace each other physically and emotionally and to take time to pause and be thankful for each and every member that makes up my wonderfully crazy (y'all know I mean that in the most endearing way) family and the uniqueness that they bring to the table?

This is more for my memory than for your benefit, but I just want to take a moment to talk about how all of these things things I just mentioned came to fruition on our last day of vacation (when we finally wised up!). Friday was by far my favorite day.  That morning, we had a family morning on the tennis, babies, and adults included. It was so fun to get back out there with my brother and sister (we all played in high school) and my mom (she has several trophies from when she played when she was my age). Later that morning, I got to catch up with two sweet friends from Wake and their precious kiddos. All of the kids got along famously, and we actually got to have some meaningful conversations that weren't completely interrupted every two minutes!! During nap time, I got to have some sweet snuggles with my niece, and then my best friend from growing up and her new beau (who I had never met) came by that afternoon for cocktails, soccer, baseball, swimming, chatting, and laughing on the beach with my entire family. We stayed on the beach until the sun was beginning to set knowing that our dinner would require mearly boiling some water for the shrimp, throwing some mayonnaise and seasonings into the packaged angel hair cole slaw, and turning on the oven to throw in the french fries. We spent the time while the fries were cooking on the top deck watching the sunset and the birds flying in formation past us, and then coming back down to the kitchen and teaching my mama, "Warm it up Chris. I'm about to. Warm it up Chris. That's what I was born to do." My grandmother let me know that I probably needed to add a little water to my wine! ;) We enjoyed our dinner together, and laughed ourselves silly doing a reinterpretation of the Happy Anniv...ry to You song.

As I am sitting here giggling to myself, I will wrap this up by saying that the week was both incredible and exhausting. We are all happy to be home, sleeping well in our own beds, reunited with our daddy, and back with our red shoes (the thing my 6 year old missed the most) and our Ironman toy (the thing my 4 year old missed the most) and back in our routine.

Until next time, sweet family...

Happy Cooking!

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